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Introduction to Counting Macros


OVERVIEW

Counting macros is one of the best ways to take control of your body. It is like counting calories but only in the fact that you are counting and tracking your overall food intake. It is a little more detailed, but with our method it is super simple. To correctly count your macros, you will also track your calories. By tracking, monitoring, and adjusting the food you eat, you can easily enhance and compliment all your hard work in the gym and change your body composition. In this article, we will explain to you the basic process we utilize ourselves and with our clients to count macros

Tools Suggested

  1. Food Scale
  2. Measuring Cups
  3. Measuring Spoons

HOW TO SPELL MACRO

Macro is short for macro nutrient. Macro nutrients include carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Each of the macros contain calories. There are 4 calories per gram of carbohydrate, 4 calories per gram of protein, and 9 calories per gram of fat. The reason we track these three is because there is a perfect ratio and total of macros we should eat per day which will optimize your body composition. Your body composition is the entire mass of your body, lean mass and fat mass combined. Ideally our bodies should have a low percentage of body fat, around 8-19%. If you can get your diet working with you instead of against you, you will begin to notice many changes and benefits one of which being decreased body fat percentage. The hard part is, the ideal numbers are different for everybody. It takes a little time and some trial and error, but soon enough you can find the ideal ratio of carbs, protein, and fat to suit your needs.

Now there is a little more that goes into this whole macro thing. You need to figure out how many total calories you should eat per day and the ratio of carbs, protein, and fat to make up those calories. But for now, we will stick to simply counting and tracking the macros.

OUR PREFERRED METHOD

The best way we have found to count your macros is to utilize an app called MyFitnessPal. It’s free and super simple to use. You can use Facebook to login and create an account which will then allow you to post to Facebook from the app when you reach a goal and for other various reason. You can also add friends in the app which can allow you to view each other goals, food choices, and achievements. Counting your macros can be very tedious and time consuming but lucky for us, MyFitnessPal has done most of the hard work ahead of time. They have a library of tons of different foods with accurate nutritional information and serving sizes. Click here to visit their website.

When you download the app, the first thing you will do is add in some basic information, age, weight, goal (lose, maintain, gain weight), etc. You will set your daily calorie goal and the desired percentage of macros within those calories. Fill these details out to the best of your knowledge. For now, we recommend you use their default numbers. The initial goal is to get the program working and to get you familiar and comfortable using it. If you would like to calculate your specific needs and work towards refining your perfect macros, send us a message and we will be glad to help you out.

ADDING FOOD

Once all the required info is entered, you will be able to add food to your diary. You can either tap the big + icon in the bottom center of the main screen, select “food” and then the meal to which you would like to add food, or you can view your diary and tap “add food” under the appropriate meal. From here you can either search for food by name, browse nearby restaurants, find your food by scanning the bar code, and browse recently used foods. If you simply cannot find the food you are looking for, you can create a food and enter its nutritional information manually. It will then be saved for you to use again later. A good thing about this app is the more you use it the easier it gets. Your recently used and frequently used foods are always at the top of your list. So, if you are keeping a routine of foods for each meal it gets easier to log your meals.

From the main screen, tap the + icon in the bottom center.

Select "Food" to add food to your diary.

Select the meal to which you would like to add food.

Or, from the diary screen select "Add Food" under the appropriate meal.

Whether you are logging a single piece of bread or a meal with 8 different items, the process is the same. For simplicity’s sake let’s cover how to log something small, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. In your diary, tap “add food” under the meal you are eating. First let’s start with the bread. Scan the bar code or search for this item. I always verify the information matches between the actual label on the food and in the app just to make sure. Annotate your serving size of the bread (usually it’s one slice…odd, right?!) and then annotate the amount of servings you are having. Once complete tap “add food” to add it to your diary. Repeat this step for the peanut butter and the jelly.

Add the food by annotating the correct serving size and number of servings.

You can either using a measuring spoon or weigh the amount of these foods you are using. I usually use the bread as my “holder” to weigh each the peanut butter and the jelly. Just place the bread on the scale, tare the scale, then add your food to the bread until you reach the desired amount.

MULTI-ADD

Instead of having to log each food item individually, you can speed up the process by using multi-add. Simply select multi-add at the bottom of the screen and you will see selection icons appear next to all of the items on your list. At this point you can choose all the items you wish to add to your meal and you can customize each item’s serving size. Once you have all your items selected and adjusted, tap the “Add(#)” button.

Use the "Multi-Add" button to add multiple items to your diary at once.

CREATING A RECIPE

You can also make your own recipes which is very convenient when you’re feeding a family, making food in bulk, or if you constantly eat the same exact peanut butter and jelly sandwich. You simply add the ingredients to the list and the app calculates it all for you. When you’re ready to eat that recipe you simply measure or weigh how much you are eating. To get an accurate count on the meals you eat from recipes there are a couple things you can do. If you know exactly how many servings your recipe will make you can identify this when you first make the new recipe in the app. Just make sure divide the finished dish equally into however many meals you identified. If you’re anything like me, your meal sizes will change depending on your needs for that meal or how much your family has already eaten. If you’re not sure, here’s what you can do. At the start of making the recipe, set your servings to 1. When you’re done cooking, weigh the entire recipe and make a note of it somewhere. When you’re ready to eat a meal, weigh the portion you are about to eat. Knowing these two numbers you can divide the serving you are about to eat by the total weight of the recipe. This number will be the serving size you input into the app. (Example: The spaghetti you made weighs a total of 500g. The serving you are about to eat weighs 125g. 125 / 500 = .25 You would enter 1/4 serving for that meal of that recipe.)

Create a recipe to track a homemade meal by adding each ingredient to a list. The app will calculate the macro and calorie totals automatically. Just ensure you measure the correct serving size so you macro counts are as accurate as possible.

VIEWING YOUR MACRO TOTALS

During the day it is important to monitor your macro and calorie totals after each meal. This way if you find yourself falling way behind on a certain macro you can make up for it through the rest of the day instead of getting caught at the end of the day trying to make up 100 grams of carbohydrates.

After entering a meal you can see the calorie total for that meal in your diary. If you want to see your macro totals broken down per meal, you will have to upgrade to the premium version of MyFitnessPal. We have never found ourselves in this position and we still use the base version of the app.

View your calorie totals per meal, for the day, and calories remaining from the main screen of your diary.

You can also view your totals under the nutrients tab and the macros tab. The nutrient tab is convenient for seeing the current numbers per macro nutrient against the total you are allowed per day. The macros tab is used to easily depict your current ratio of macros in your diet for the day next to your goal percentages.

View your current macro totals against your total allowed.

View your current macro percentages next to your goal percentages.

TIPS

If you are using a scale, always remember to tare the scale with the plate, bowl, or other dish you are using to hold the food. 

It really boils down to consistency. For example, there is much discussion on whether to weigh meat before or after cooking. The key is to do the same thing every time. If you start by weighing prior to cooking, always do it this way. You don’t want to keep changing things and potentially affecting results, albeit slightly. Consistency is the key when it comes to macros.

Pay attention to your fiber intake. While the focus is on the macronutrients, you should also pay attention to the amount of fiber you get in your diet. This will aid in processing the food you are eating and can help prevent a bloated feeling.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! It is extremely important to stay properly hydrated. Among the many benefits of proper hydration, aiding with digestion is one of them. You can track your water intake if you want in the MyFitnessPal app. Or you can just make a larger effort to drink more water. Check our article “A Guide to Proper Hydration” for more information on the benefits of proper hydration and some really easy tips you can follow to help keep your water intake on the up and up.

Scan your food first, then begin to prepare.

Use a scale! It's not difficult to weigh your food before you eat and it doesn't take much extra time either. The more detailed you are in the preparation of your food, the more accurate your numbers will be. Consequently the more accurate your numbers are the easier it will be to adjust your ratios to achieve a desired outcome.

Change the format of the "Number of Servings" to "decimal." This allows you to input exact numbers with a decimal for more accurate tracking.

THE MATH YOU DON'T HAVE TO DO

If you're curious, here is how you would do the math manually to calculate your total amounts of macros per day. Let's say you are going to eat a total of 2,000 calories per day and you want 50% of those calories to be from carbohydrates, 25% to be from protein, and the last 25% to be from fat. There are 4 calories per gram of carbohydrate and per gram of protein. There are 9 calories per gram of fat..that's more than double!

CARBOHYDRATES - 50 percent of 2,000 calories is 1,000 calories of carbs, divided by 4 calories per gram of carbohydrate equals 250 grams of carbohydrates.

PROTEIN - 25 percent of 2,000 calories is 500 calories of protein, divided by 4 calories per gram of protein equals 125 grams of protein.

FAT - 25 percent of 2,000 calories is 500 calories of fat, divided by 9 calories per gram of fat equals 55.5 grams of fat.

When you look at it this way, it should change your perspective a bit on how much fat is too much fat in a given piece of food. If you're used to seeing a nutrition label, for example, with 10 grams of protein and 8 grams of fat and thinking "that's not too bad..there's more protein than fat..." THINK AGAIN! Because of the higher calorie content of fat, it's really like there is twice the amount of fat than there is protein in this example.

CONCLUSION

We hope this helps you understand macros a little bit more, and we hope it makes you consider tracking your food intake. Even if only for a day or two, it could be quite an eye opening experience to see exactly what you are feeding your body.

If you have any questions or want some more help understanding macros or developing your own nutrition plan, don't hesitate to contact us. We will be glad to help you out and get you started!


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